2020 CSR All-Stars: Jill Kerske, Independent Printing Inc.
Account Service Representative
Independent Printing Inc., De Pere, Wis.
Jill Kerske has the foresight to predict potential issues before they leak out of the pipeline. But, the 21-year industry veteran isn’t just an anticipator; she’s a reactor, when appropriate, always ready with solutions. It’s not a question of “Can she do it?” Rather, it all comes down to the how.
“I aim to anticipate customer needs, as well as the needs of my internal constituents and teammates,” Kerske said. “The best way I can describe my philosophy of customer care is to be water. Put anything in a jar and add water to fill in all around, plugging all the gaps.”
Kerske’s print roots date back to high school. She always had an interest in art, so when it was time to choose an elective, graphics felt like a good fit. She recalls learning the whole process, including art setup, shooting negatives and making plates—even running small AB Dicks. During her studies at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, Kerske focused more on the art/computer graphics side; however, her first job out of college was in the local newspaper prepress. Roughly 13 years later, because of downsizing, she found herself searching for a new gig. She knew she wanted to stay in printing, so when an opportunity opened at Independent Printing Inc., she applied. Kerske admits feeling reluctant about accepting a customer service role, at first, but it turned out to be an even better fit than production.
Kerske, who supports 30 assigned clients, displays incredible print knowledge, indefatigable energy and passion for her work, according to her nominator. Oh, and she’s a lover of puns, which keeps her audience smiling.
“Jill is always eager to take on continuous improvement projects, and does so with a very inclusive nature,” her nominator said. “Everyone that works with Jill feels heard and knows they’re integral to the success—Jill makes a point of it. She’s a true champion!”
Her Approach to Customer Service
Partnership. They are not just customers, but project partners. We both have the same goals: create a product that satisfies their needs, while meeting deadlines. There is nothing more satisfying than getting a call from the customer that they loved the project you worked so hard to perfect.
How She Keeps Calm and Stays Inspired
Sometimes, it’s good to get up and take a short walk. Take a lunch break, sit with friends and do not talk about work; talk about family, pets, what you’re doing when you’re not at work. I find this is extremely helpful for staying positive and getting through a stressful day.
How COVID-19 Has Changed Her Job
[There is] less face-to-face [interaction] with customers, which I miss. But, overall, not much has changed.
Why She Loves Her Job and the Industry
I love being part of a process, working with a customer and our production team to take an idea from conception to finished product. [I also love] that I learn something new every day. That could include a new way to use equipment, or new processes.
Her Proudest Career Achievement
I am most proud of the relationships I have formed with customers. I like to think of it more as a partnership versus a customer-vendor relationship. When you have a relationship, it is easier to work through projects and problems that come up during the process and [it] makes work much more enjoyable.
Her Best Advice
Don’t take it personally! Everyone has a bad day. It could be your customer today, but you tomorrow. Be patient, be a good listener. When I’m in a particularly tense conversation, I think about times when I was the customer and had a good customer service experience, and use that to give that same experience to my customer.
What She Does for Fun
I love the outdoors. As a family, we camp, hike and fish. I am a Girl Scout troop leader, and love working with the girls in my troop. They are so inspiring and fun, and they really help relieve the stress!
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.